Categories
Healthy Lifestyle

Back to school and aromatherapy

back_to_school

Article by Alexia Buttigieg

And now summer is over and everyone is back to winter routine:  the students, or those who have kids or else those who work in the education sector. In a way it seems like almost everyone is affected by this event. It might become hectic and create excessive tension in the students, the parents or the teachers. Essential oils can play an important role at the beginning of the scholastic year.

Firstly, I would like to share with you why I do not approve of vaporising essential oils in a class of pupils, no matter their age. Recently some DIY bloggers where promoting the idea of having essential oilsdiffusers in schools. While it would in theory be great, unfortunately this is not possible. Having a class of 15 to more individuals in one room and choosing one essential oils that fits all is impossible. No not even the lavender which we think is safe for all. Although essential oils are natural substances, people can still get allergic reactions to them. If used incorrectly they can harm  the wellbeing of an individual, so before attempting any DIY please be cautious mostly where kids are concerned.

Having said that, at home we all know our family members and we can choose the correct oils for the family. Essential oils are best absorbed through the body by inhalation either by using electric diffusers or diffuser reed sticks, which help the microscopic natural chemicals to go through our system. Below are a few essential oils that can help in some situations that usually are accompanied by school stress;

If a vaporiser is used please follow the instructions of supplier on amount of drops to be put in water.

Vaporisers should not be used for more than 3 hours at a stretch.

If reed diffusers are used, do not use more than 5 drops in 10 ml of alcohol. Please ask for advice when blending 2 or more essential oils.reed-diffuser

Improving and supporting the immune system: Thyme, Ravensara, Helichrysum, Oregano, Rosemary, Myrrh, Lemongrass, Lavender,  Chamomile, Melissa, Lemon, Cinnamon, Clove,  Melalueca, Vetiver.

Stimulating Essential Oils: Rosemary, Ginger, Peppermint, Lemon, Eucalyptus, Pine, Nutmeg, Pepper. Note that Peppermint and Eucalyptus should not be used on small kids.

To help relieve anxiety: Jasmine, Benzoin resinoid, Bergamot, Rose, Cedarwood, Rosewood,  Lemon, Lime, Patchouli, Geranium, Bergamot, Lavender, Neroli, Ylang ylang.

For bed wetting as of anxiety: Cypress essential oil.

Poor concentration: Clary Sage, Cardamom, Rosemary, Peppermint, Basil, Lemon, Frankincense.

Lack of confidence or low self esteem: Jasmine essential oil ( Do not use jasmine if there is any pregnant woman in the household)

Tension headaches: Chamomile (German, Roman), Lavender, Peppermint, Spearmint, Rosewood, Rosemary, Balsam fir, Valerian, Clove, Eucalyptus, Basil.

Hyperactitvity: Valerian, Lavender, Cedarwood, Roman Chamomile, Vetiver, Peppermint.

Panic attacks: Lavender, Rosewood, Sweet Marjoram.

Head lice: In this case the oils should not be inhaled but mixed in a medium of apple cider vinegar and water. This can be used as a preventative measure, but if lice are already present an  anti lice shampoo is to be used as well, together  with a fine toothed comb. 6 drops of thyme to 15 ml of organic apple cider vinegar to 500ml of filtered water. Mix and apply to hair after shampoo. Use comb to brush. Thyme or Rosemary essential oils are recommended. Can be used as preventative measure every time the hair is washed.  Choose either one essential oil or other. Please do not use neat tea tree oil on a child scalp, there is no study supporting the theory and there is a risk of causing  allergic reactions. If tea tree oil is used as a general antiseptic this must be mixed by using a few drops in an unscented conditioner.

Using essential oils in a relaxing evening routine can also help in inducing better rest and calmer sleeps. If used in a bath remember to mix essential oils in full fat milk or in a spoon of honey since oils are not water soluble. Adding salts to the bath like dead sea salts or Epsom salts can add benefits.

Finishing the bath while massaging yourself or the kids with a light absorbing oil like poppy seed oil and adding a few drops of desired essential oil to enhance the relaxing ritual.

I must add that to the essential oils, one must ensure that students are having the right amount of sleep, are also having a nutritive diet, that there is some exercise involved. In addition, we must  also keep a dialogue to understand if there are any issues that are bothering them in the school environment.

This information is provided with best intentions and from best sources but one must keep in mind not to take essential oils very lightly. Please do seek professional advice if in doubt, not all information on the internet comes from a reliable source and one must be careful most when there are DIY recipes created to promote a certain company or product. Please do drop an email and Iwill be very happy to help if you have any questions, or ask any qualified aromatherapist before venturing in an aromatherapy blend with more than 2 essential oils.

Wishing you all a cosy autumn and aromatic smelling homes.

Sources:

Aromatherapy workbook by Marcel Lavabre

Essential oils integrative medical guide: buiding immunity, increasing longevity, and enhancing mental performance with Therapeutic grade essential oils by D. Gary young,ND, essential science publishing.

The practice of Aromatherapy by Jean Valnet, M.D 1990


Alexia Buttigieg is a holistic therapist who is passionate about everything that can help people feel better in a more natural approach, from massage to self-therapy to essential oils and reflexology. She believes that stress cannot be avoided but nature has given us all we need to reduce it, and live a more balanced existence. She started her career as a Beauty therapist and has achieved diplomas in Esteticienne and Physiatrics, where she was able to understand the anatomy and physiology of the human body. She furthered her studies by achieving diplomas in Reflexology (including palliative care) and Aromatherapy. Other certificate courses include tui na, facial analysis and ayurvedic stone massage.  In these past years she has ventured into natural cosmetics and read for a diploma and an advanced diploma in organic skincare formulation, which harmonises her passions for Aromatherapy and organic skincare treatments. Alexia still feels like her first role is being a mother to her daughter and prioritises family and their well-being. She may be contacted at naturannis@gmail.com

Categories
Healthy Lifestyle

The Ancient Healing Art of Reflexology

Article by Rita Briffa

The ancient healing art of Reflexology enhances the natural ability of the body to heal itself by restoring and maintaining the body’s natural balance.

reflexology-flower

What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is a natural healing art based on the principles that there are reflexes in the hands and feet that correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body.  Reflexology is a holistic therapy. Reflexology uses massage to reflex areas found in the feet and the hands. It is healthier to use the feet for Reflexology.

In the feet, there are reflex areas corresponding to all the parts of the body. These areas are arranged in such a way as to form a map of the body in the feet. The right foot corresponds to the right side of the body and the left foot corresponds to the left side of the body.

By having the whole body represented in the feet, Reflexology offers the healthy method of treating the whole body and of treating the body holistically. This is an important factor of a natural therapy and allows not only symptoms to be treated but also the causes of symptoms.

Through application of pressure on these reflexes, reflexology relieves tension, improves circulation and promotes the natural function of the related areas of the body.

In ancient times, we stimulated reflexes naturally by walking barefoot over rocks, stones and rough ground, or by using our hands more often to climb, build or work. In today’s modern world we have lost much of nature’s way of maintaining a balanced and healthy equilibrium. Reflexology helps to restore this balance and promote natural health and vitality.

Although Reflexology does not diagnose or treat specific ailments by definition, it has proven highly successful over time to relieve symptoms or ease pain or discomfort that have manifested themselves physically in the body – either as a result of stress, trauma or disease.

Reflexology does not claim to be a ‘cure-all’ but numerous different disorders have been successfully treated by this method. These disorders include such things as migraine, sinus problems, hormonal imbalances, breathing disorders, digestive problems, circulatory problems, back problems and tension and stress. Most people who have experienced treatment would agree that the method can be most beneficial and is also a very relaxing therapy.

Reflexology is a therapeutic method of relieving pain. It stimulates specific pressure points on the feet and hands. This controlled pressure alleviates the source of the discomfort. In good health, Reflexology is effective for promoting wellbeing and for preventing illness as it may be for relieving symptoms of stress, injury, and illness.

Reflexologists work according to maps of predefined pressure points that are located on the hands and feet. These pressure points are connected directly through the nervous system and affect the bodily organs and glands. The reflexologist works on the pressure points according to specific techniques of reflexology therapy. By means of this touching therapy, any part of the body that is the source of pain, illness, or potential weakness can be strengthened through the application of pressure at the respective foot or hand location.

Origins of reflexology

Reflexology is an ancient healing art. Although its origins are not well documented, there is evidence that it was practiced in ancient Egypt, China and India.

There are pictures on the walls of a Sixth Dynasty Egyptian tomb (c. 2450 B.C.) that show two seated men receiving massage on their hands and feet. From Egypt Reflexology may have entered the Western world during the conquests of the Roman Empire.

Reflexology has also been traced to pre-dynastic China (possibly as early as 3000 B.C.) and to ancient Indian medicine. The Inca civilization may have used the theories of reflexology and passed on the practice of this treatment to the Native Americans.

In the 1890s Sir Henry Head first studied the notions of reflexology in the U.K. At the same time therapists in Germany and Russia were researching similar notions of reflexology with a different focus.

Less than twenty years later, William H. Fitzgerald presented a similar perception that he called zone therapy. Fitzgerald’s zone theory was a method of relieving pain through the application of pressure to specific locations throughout the entire body. Fitzgerald divided the body into 10 vertical zones, five on each side, which extended from the head to the fingertips and toes, and from front to back. Every aspect of the human body appears in one of these 10 zones, and each zone has a reflex area on the hands and feet. Fitzgerald and his colleague, Dr. Edwin Bowers, demonstrated that by applying pressure on one area of the body, they could reduce pain in a corresponding part. In 1917, Fitzgerald and Bowers published Relieving Pain at Home, an explanation of zone therapy.

In the 1930s, Eunice D. Ingham went further into the theory of reflexology. It was ascertained that pressure points on the human foot were situated in a mirror image of the corresponding organs of the body.

Ingham formed the basis of reflexology, in Stories the Feet Can Tell, published in 1938. Although Ingham’s work in reflexology was inaccurately described as zone therapy by some, there are differences between the two therapies of pressure therapy.

Among the more marked differences, reflexology defines a precise correlation between pressure points and afflicted areas of the body. Furthermore, Ingham divided each foot and hand into 12 respective pressure zones, in contrast to the 10 vertical divisions that encompass the entire body in Fitzgerald’s zone therapy.

In 1968 Dwight Byers and Eusebia Messenger, established the National Institute of Reflexology. By the early 1970s the Institute had grown and was renamed the International Institute of Reflexology.

tombpainting

Recent popularity of reflexology

For several reasons, in recent years reflexology has enjoyed a lot of popularity. Today we are exposed to high levels of stress in our jobs, our homes and travels. Stress is without a doubt one of the main causes of physical and mental pain and suffering, as well as contributing to making symptoms, other diseases or conditions much worse. Reflexology is a great stress reducer.

Even though many people are trying to eat organic or healthy foods, even those ‘healthy’ foods grown today are grown in soil conditions that are greatly depleted in basic minerals and nutrients compared to the days of our grandparents. This means that even though people are trying to improve their diet, it is not easy to do. This lack of minerals combined with stress puts more pressure on our immune system and health. Reflexology works to allow the body to work to heal itself and normalize functions.

People are turning more and more to complimentary or natural health care that focuses on pro-active maintenance and holistic or entire body well being.

Reflexology offers an all-natural therapy that does not require anything other than gentle manipulation to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms to normalize and heal.  It is gaining popularity primarily due to the enthusiasm of those who have found and realized the benefits.

How does it work?

In a typical reflexology treatment, the therapist and patient have a preliminary discussion prior to therapy, to enable the therapist to focus more accurately on the patient’s specific complaints and to determine the appropriate pressure points for treatment.

A reflexology session involves pressure treatment that is most commonly administered in foot therapy sessions of approximately 40–45 minutes in duration. The foot therapy may be followed by a brief 15-minute hand therapy session. No artificial devices or special equipment are associated with this therapy. The human hand is the primary tool used in reflexology. The therapist applies controlled pressure with the thumb and forefinger, generally working toward the heel of the foot or the outer palm of the hand. Reflexology therapy is not massage, and it is not a substitute for medical treatment.

Reflexology is a complex system that identifies and addresses the mass of 7,000 nerve endings that are contained in the foot. Additional reflexology addresses the nerves that are located in the hand. This is a completely natural therapy that affords relief without the use of drugs.

Reflexology is safe

Reflexology is extremely safe. It may even be self-administered in a limited form whenever desired. The qualified reflexologist offers a clear and open disclaimer that reflexology does not constitute medical treatment in any form, nor is reflexology given as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. The ultimate purpose of the therapy is to promote wellness; fundamentally it is a form of preventive therapy. Reflexology compliments other medical treatments and relieves pain and stimulates healing.

People with serious and long-term medical problems are urged to seek the advice of a physician. A consultation with a reflexologist is recommended in order to determine the safety and appropriateness of reflexology therapy for a specific health problem or condition.

Preparations

In order to realize maximum benefit from a reflexology session, the therapist as well as the patient should be situated so as to afford optimal comfort for both. Patients in general receive treatment in a reclining position, with the therapist positioned as necessary—to work on the bare feet, or alternately on the bare hands.

A reflexology patient removes both shoes and socks in order to receive treatment. No other preparation is involved. No prescription drugs, creams, oils, or lotions are used on the skin.

How Can Reflexology Help You?

The body has the ability to heal itself. Following illness, stress, injury or disease, it is in a state of “imbalance”, and vital energy pathways are blocked, preventing the body from functioning effectively. Reflexology can be used to restore and maintain the body’s natural equilibrium and encourage healing.

A reflexologist uses hands only to apply gentle pressure to the feet. For each person the application and the effect of the therapy is unique. Sensitive, trained hands can detect tiny deposits and imbalances in the feet, and by working on these points, the reflexologist can release blockages and restore the free flow of energy to the whole body.

Tensions are eased, and circulation and elimination is improved. This gentle therapy encourages the body to heal itself at its own pace, often counteracting a lifetime of misuse.

What Happens When You Go For Treatment?

On your first visit there is a preliminary talk with the practitioner. The reflexologist then begins to work on your feet, or hands if necessary, noting problem areas. There may be discomfort in some places, but it is fleeting, and is an indication of congestion or imbalance in a corresponding part of the body. For the most part, the sensation is pleasant and soothing. Reflexology will relax you while stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms.

Usually a treatment session lasts for about one hour. A course of treatment varies in length depending on your body’s needs. Your reflexologist will discuss this with you at the first session. After the first treatment or two your body may respond in a very definite way: you may have a feeling of well being and relaxation; or you may feel lethargic, nauseous or tearful, but this is transitory. It is, however, vital information for reflexologist, as it shows how your body is responding to treatment.

Who can benefit from reflexology?

Since reflexology treats the whole person, not the symptoms of disease, most people benefit from treatment. The therapy brings relief to a wide range of acute and chronic conditions, and is suitable for all ages.

Once your body is in-tune, it is wise to have regular treatments in order to help maintain health and well being. An increasing number of people are using this safe, natural therapy as a way of relaxing, balancing and harmonizing the body.

Benefits of reflexology

Reflexology promotes healing by stimulating the nerves in the body and encouraging the flow of blood. In the process, reflexology not only relieves pain, but also heals the source of the pain.

Reflexologists relate numerous success stories in the treatment of a variety of conditions and injuries. Persons who suffer from chronic conditions are encouraged to experience reflexology therapy to alleviate its symptoms. Frequent brief sessions of reflexology therapy are also recommended as an alternative to drug therapy for controlling muscle pain associated with fibromyalgia. Reflexology is also effective in relieving difficult breathing caused by tightness in the muscles of the patient’s neck and throat.

Benefits of Reflexology:

  • Relieves sore and tired feet by reducing bloating and stimulating nerve function
  • Improves body posture and blood circulation
  • Reduces depression and brings on a deep state of relaxation,
  • Relieves the pain associated with arthritis
  • Helps digestion and eliminates toxins,
  • Prevents migraines,
  • Speeds recovery after injury or surgery,
  • Helps relieve sleep disorders,
  • Soothes the pains of pregnancy, even those occurring after the baby is born.
  • Assists pain management in cancer, MS, arthritis, fibromylgia and other chronic conditions

How to find a good therapist?

There are several good reflexology therapists. In searching for a good therapist; it is advisable to go with your gut feeling. You cannot decide solely on the prices they charge as this can be misleading. A high price does not mean the best service.

So it is suggested that you ask your friends or relatives who made use of the services by this therapist. Or else browse the website or the social media and get an idea on how they work and any reviews or comments on their services.

And finally reflexology cannot go wrong. So in the event that you go and do not feel satisfied with the service, then you can decide not to go again. Or you may be satisfied and make another appointment.


Rita Briffa, Wellbeing Consultant gives treatments with Reiki, Reflexology, Talking Therapy (Holistic Guidance), Bach Flower Remedies and Encaustic Art therapies.

Rita also teaches Reiki at all levels up to Master Teacher level.

Rita Briffa

Wellbeing Consultant

B.A. (Gen.) M.A. (Qual) Certificate in Management (MIM)

Traditional Reiki Master Teacher,

Diploma in Bach Flower Remedies,

Certificate in Gestalt Psychotherapy,

Certificate in Reflexology,

Encaustic Art and Colour Therapy Healing,

Website: www.wellbeingconsultantmalta.com

E-mail: ritabriffa@gmail.com                                                                                            Skype. rita.briffa

Categories
Healthy Lifestyle

Stings, Sun and Aromatherapy fun!

Summer(4)

Article by Alexia Buttigieg

Summer is here, and of course along with it the heat, mosquitoes and jellyfish also tag along. Essential oils have a great effect as repellents for insects and are also very soothing as summer first aiders.

This is the natural shopping list for your summer:

  • Witch hazel
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Lavandin essential oil
  • Eucalyptus Lemon essential oil
  • Chamomile roman essential oil.

Worrying us the most are the jellyfish stings, and gosh they do hurt! These are treated best with Lavender essential oil, as first aid and can be applied undiluted and then mixed with aloe vera gel up to 1% to keep up the treatment. Some would recommend using Vinegar and for some it is effective. There is no scientific evidence regarding this, but still many swear by it. Though first aiders recommend to wash area with warm clear water for some minutes and after the undiluted Lavender should be applied to avoid venom entering the system.

Next?  Insect stings!!!

First I would like to spare a word about what to avoid in an insect repellent . DEET!

The EPA says that if used as directed, bug sprays containing DEET are not harmful to us, although long-term exposure is. When you spray it on your skin, it gets absorbed and eventually enters the bloodstream. It pumps through your nervous system and has been proven to kill brain cells, causing neurological damage. If you have heavy exposure to DEET, you may experience memory loss, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and shortness of breath. Mosquito bites aren’t looking so bad now, huh? DEET could be considered a poison, but the EPA feels that small doses are OK for us. So if you’re using a product containing DEET, follow the directions on the bottle. Don’t over-apply, and as soon as you go inside, wash your skin off with soap and water.

I don’t wish to use scaremongering but there are safer ingredients to be used so it’s up to the individual to decide to go for this ingredient, and if you choose to, make sure at least is in low dosage. More than that make sure if used on kids they do not put their hands in their mouth or get it in their eyes or mucous membrane.

Natural Mosquito spray repellent:

There are various essential oils that work as mosquito repellent; Citronella, Eucalyptus Lemon, Patchouli, Lemongrass, Lavandin, geranium bourbon.  All are effective mostly in vaporisers and aromatherapy diffusers. These essential oils should be added to water at a maximum of 3.5% if outside, 2% if indoors and if small pets or kids are present at 1%. One should not expose oneself to the fumes for more than 3 hours at a stretch. When applied to the skin things work differently. These essential oils mentioned can cause skin sensitisation if used in high percentages. My favourite one for kids is; eucalyptus Lemon at 0.6% which is safer than citronella on the skin and Lavandin at 0.3% which is a lavender hybrid and apart than having insect repellent properties has also calming effects on the skin. These should be mixed in witch hazel and placed in a small dark bottle. Always shake before use as to disperse essential oils. Mix in small quantities. Spray on skin avoiding eyes and mouth.

Lemon eucalyptus: This essential oil is so effective against bugs that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered lemon eucalyptus oil as a natural “biopesticide repellent”.

If bitten or stung  Chamomile at 0.25% and Lavender at 0.75% are very soothing and calming. These can be mixed in sweet almond oil, calendula oil or even aloe vera gel.

Tip for your home!! Clove and peppermint essential oils at 2% in white vinegar acts as an ant repellent. Spray areas where ants are present.

Essential oils do not offer any kind of sun filter, No base oils are proven to be a sun filter. So it is clear that essential oils mixed in base oils are not to be applied before sun exposure and proper sun protection should be applied. There is no 100% natural sun protection cream but there are various sun screens with natural and organic oils with non nano zinc oxides which are not able to penetrate deep into the skin but keep on the surface meaning they are safer for us.  Having said that, after sun can easily be done with 100% natural DIY ingredients:

Aloe vera gel mixed with 0.75% of Lavender and 0.25% Roman Chamomile. Keep refrigerated if you decide to mix a large batch and use a spoon or spatula to scoop out product since aloe vera has a high percentage of water to avoid contamination. This can be done also for sunburn and can be applied thickly on the effected area, Apply several times a day.

Citrus-based essential oils absorb higher amounts of the sun’s energy, creating sun sensitivities. Avoid applying these oils when planning to spend time outside, as the oils can cause the skin area to burn faster: Bitter orange, Grapefruit, Bergamot, Lime, Lemon,Tangerine, Sweet orange.

In summer, essential oils should be kept in a cool dry place. Avoid leaving them in the sun if taking any. For example, when lavender is taken to the beach as first aid rescue, place it in a cooler.

All the above information is given from research from books and sites with best intentions but one would always recommend a patch test on the inner elbow whenever a new essential oil is used.

References:

Complete book of aromatherapy by Valerie Worwood

Ifra dermal limits

EPA site

An introductory guide to aromatherapy by Louise Tucker.


Alexia Buttigieg is a holistic therapist who is passionate about everything that can help people feel better in a more natural approach, from massage to self-therapy to essential oils and reflexology. She believes that stress cannot be avoided but nature has given us all we need to reduce it, and live a more balanced existence. She started her career as a Beauty therapist and has achieved diplomas in Esteticienne and Physiatrics, where she was able to understand the anatomy and physiology of the human body. She furthered her studies by achieving diplomas in Reflexology (including palliative care) and Aromatherapy. Other certificate courses include tui na, facial analysis and ayurvedic stone massage.  In these past years she has ventured into natural cosmetics and read for a diploma and an advanced diploma in organic skincare formulation, which harmonises her passions for Aromatherapy and organic skincare treatments. Alexia still feels like her first role is being a mother to her daughter and prioritises family and their well-being. She may be contacted at naturannis@gmail.com

Categories
Healthy Lifestyle

Hydrosols in Aromatherapy

steamdistillation1

Article by Alexia Buttigieg

I bet that you all heard rose water mentioned by our grandmas, who used it for everything and swore by it! And no wonder, they are so spot on. The benefits of these aromatic waters is fantastic.

They are also known as floral waters, but the appropriate words are hydrosols or hydrolats which both make sense. Hydro means water part than sol is a solution in Latin, and lat is milk in Latin which is the appearance of the finished product after distillation. This is a by product of distilled essential oils where on one side you get the plant matter’s essential oil and the other side this hydrolat is collected.

It must be said that hydrosols are cheaper than essential oils, and these do not need to be diluted and can be used directly on thHydrosolse skin. Hydrosols are very safe for babies pregnant ladies and small pets still with some exceptions (always ask your aromatherapist if you have any of the mentioned situation). They are ideal as face toners, for calming diaper rash, refreshing linen, as a room fragrance, added to steamers or steam irons ( must state that appliance is compatible ) added to the rinse cycle in washing machine, added to baths, used as deodorants or  body freshener. So as you might notice the uses are vast and not only eliminating possible toxic synthetic fragrances from your home but they also have added therapeutic benefits of which I will mention a few to have an idea.

One must keep in mind that most hydrosols have a shorter shelf life than fellow oils, but usually the date would be marked on the purchased bottle. Also if you notice any sediments or change in smell it might be that it has gone bad. It is mandatory in the EU that purchased hydrolats must be properly preserved ideally with preservatives accepted by natural cosmetics associations and that only those are added to the hydrosols and no other fancy ingredient. Store in a dark cool place away from heat and sunlight.

These are a few hydrolats available on the market;

Rose water: soothes dry skin, balancing.

Witch hazel: soothes, astringent, calms inflammation, used for combination skins and acne but also diaper rash

Tea tree: fights infections, antiseptic, cooling, helps fight infection.

Chamomile: healing of skin, calms swelling, anti allergenic and anti irritant.

Lavender: antiseptic, cooling, calming, bactericidal, regenerating.

There are so many more to choose from but these should be a good starting point for those who are new to hydrosols. More will be available on the market as they are regaining popularity. And like essential oils buy from reputable sellers. One last note to add is that you might notice that the same purchased hydrosol might differ in smell or colour from the previous purchase. It is totally ok. This happens because climate, cultivation and time of distillation will make an impact on end result leaving the hydrosol with a different smell and sometimes colour too, but in my belief is the beauty of nature and what makes natural products unique.


Alexia Buttigieg is a holistic therapist who is passionate about everything that can help people feel better in a more natural approach, from massage to self-therapy to essential oils and reflexology. She believes that stress cannot be avoided but nature has given us all we need to reduce it, and live a more balanced existence. She started her career as a Beauty therapist and has achieved diplomas in Esteticienne and Physiatrics, where she was able to understand the anatomy and physiology of the human body. She furthered her studies by achieving diplomas in Reflexology (including palliative care) and Aromatherapy. Other certificate courses include tui na, facial analysis and ayurvedic stone massage.  In these past years she has ventured into natural cosmetics and read for a diploma and an advanced diploma in organic skincare formulation, which harmonises her passions for Aromatherapy and organic skincare treatments. Alexia still feels like her first role is being a mother to her daughter and prioritises family and their well-being. She may be contacted at naturannis@gmail.com

 

Categories
Healthy Lifestyle

An Introduction to Reiki

Close up head portrait of young woman having facial massage in spa. Therapist massaging woman’s head against colorful background.

Article By Rita Briffa

WHAT IS REIKI?

Reiki is a natural energy therapy that promotes health and wellbeing. Reiki can be used as part of the treatment of minor to chronic illnesses. It can also be an integral part in prevention from disease as it calms the mind and increases relaxation. Reiki increases inner calmness and brings about greater peace.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A REIKI TREATMENT?

During a Reiki treatment, the hands are gently and lightly placed on the client’s body. Reiki is given through clothing. So a client can remain fully dressed during the treatment. The energy flow is very soft and comforting. Often clients fall asleep and experience a deep state of relaxation. The mind calms down, the breathing slows down and clients feel well, serene, at peace and happy! Often Reiki gets clients back in touch with their inner power to heal and be happy!

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REIKI?

One hour treatment of Reiki is equivalent to four hours of sleep, with benefits such as increased oxygen supply to the blood and cells. This clinical observation combined with the relaxation state, makes Reiki a most effective natural stress reliever. Regular use of Reiki leads to an increase in general vitality and well being and a sense of inner peace.

REIKI …

Can be used as part of the treatment of many common conditions;

Increases pain management;

Increases energy and vitality;

Dramatically eliminates stress and tension; and,

Raises levels of self esteem and self confidence.


Rita Briffa B.A. (Gen.); M.A. (Qual); Certificate in Management (MIM) is a Wellbeing Consultant and founder of the Healing Hands School of Reiki in Malta. She teaches all levels of Reiki up to Masters’ level and gives treatments with Holistic guidance, Reiki, Reflexology, Bach Flower Remedies and Encaustic Art Therapy. In 1997 Rita started her training in Reiki with The Reiki Network. That year she achieved her first and second degrees in the field, followed by a Reiki 3A course with the Reiki Network in 1998. In 2001 she completed a Foundation Course in Gestalt Psychotherapy at GPTIM. In 2004, Rita finished a course in Reflexology at the Arran School of Reflexology, Scotland.  Her calling to Reiki led her to start a two-year Master training course in 2002, from which she graduated as Reiki Master, and then started teaching Reiki in 2004 and attained Master Teacher Degree in 2014. In 2012, Rita followed a course in Encaustic Art therapy in Limassol, Cyprus. In May 2015 Rita achieved a distinction in her Diploma in Bach Flower Remedies with the Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine in Cyprus. That same year, Rita completed a course in Abundance Coaching. She may be contacted at Website:www.wellbeingconsultantmalta.com E-mail:ritabriffa@gmail.com

Categories
Healthy Lifestyle

Carrier Oils

rosemary olive oil

Article by Alexia Buttigieg

Also known as fixed or base, and in Aromatherapy these oils are as important as essential oils. These are thicker and not volatile, they carry vitamins and nutrients to the skin but are only able to penetrate through the surface of the skin as their molecular structure is much thicker than that of essential oils. However, they are the perfect vehicle to transport the volatile essential oil through our skin.
Oils have been used for centuries even before essential oils existed and are used in culinary, medicinal and beauty industries. As oils are essential to our diet these are also essential to our skin, and according to the skin type and purpose different oils must be used.
These contain mostly GLA’s and fatty acids. They vary in texture and penetration rate and also in function. Oils are liquid at room temperature while butters are solid at room temperature. There are also waxes that are used in aromatherapy like beeswax and candelila. Examples of butters are shea and cocoa. Some examples of oils are olive, sweet almond, borage and sunflower. The meaning of an unrefined oil is that this has been pressed and filtered but did not go under further treatment, while when an oil or butter has been refined this would have gone under treatment to change the smell and texture of final product. Virgin oil is when it has gone under pressure mostly mechanical and just filtered. When an oil is hydrogenated this goes through a process of adding hydrogen atoms to unsaturated oil or butter making it stable and increasing its shelf life but also removing some important nutrients as of the process it would have undergone. Infused oils are dry plant materials that have been soaked in the oil and the extract would have transferred into the oil making it more beneficial. Lipids, a word used to describe oils and butters in aromatherapy can be found both in animals and mostly in the plant kingdom. And they are used in massage, baths and soap making.
There is a whole study behind oils and it is very scientific. It is very interesting to know that oils are pressed from the seed of the plant and then used for its purpose. Countries like Africa produce a high amount of shea butter and Africans use it for everything, their skin is very dry and needs protection from the harmful uv rays. In Mongolia where it is very cold they use animal fats and sea buckthorn oil which also has medicinal purpose for them. In Malta we are very proud of our olive oil and Borage seed oil (fidloqqom). Both are very good to preserve moisture and are anti inflammatory, soothe damaged skin and are anti ageing. While olive oil is very thick and takes a while to absorb, Borage on the other hand is a dry oil which absorbs really fast. Organic oils are available on the market, these would have been grown naturally without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Usually they are higher in price but will retain more benefits than a hydrogenated refined oil. This does not mean that using the latter is bad for you but you get more benefits in using an oil which has not been treated but had gone only through pressing as it would retain all essential fatty acids and nutrients.

Here is a quick recipe for aching muscles:
Infused rosemary olive oil. This is done by washing the rosemary leaves in warm water with a spoon of bicarbonate of soda, dry with kitchen paper and hang dry the herb until it is dehydrated. In a glass jar place ½ a litre of olive oil and immerse the rosemary leaves in it. Attention: all matter must be under the oil as it would create mould when exposed to air. Leave in the sun for a few days, remembering to stir the jar gently once a day. After this process, transfer the oil to a dark glass bottle and label with date. This could be used on its own for muscle pain and rheumatic pains.

Reference: Power of the Seed: Your Guide to Oils for Health & Beauty (2015) by Susan M. Parker


Alexia Buttigieg is a holistic therapist who is passionate about everything that can help people feel better in a more natural approach, from massage to self-therapy to essential oils and reflexology. She believes that stress cannot be avoided but nature has given us all we need to reduce it, and live a more balanced existence. She started her career as a Beauty therapist and has achieved diplomas in Esteticienne and Physiatrics, where she was able to understand the anatomy and physiology of the human body. She furthered her studies by achieving diplomas in Reflexology (including palliative care) and Aromatherapy. Other certificate courses include tui na, facial analysis and ayurvedic stone massage.  In these past years she has ventured into natural cosmetics and read for a diploma and an advanced diploma in organic skincare formulation, which harmonises her passions for Aromatherapy and organic skincare treatments. Alexia still feels like her first role is being a mother to her daughter and prioritises family and their well-being. She may be contacted at naturannis@gmail.com

Categories
Healthy Lifestyle

An Introduction to Essential Oils

florihana-distillery-lavender

Article by Alexia Buttigieg

Oh Essential oils! Wait do you know what they are or where they come from? ….don’t fret! here are some interesting and fun details.

We all know what essential oils are right? But just in case there are some who might not know here is a quick brief explanation. Essential oils are not in reality oils, they are made of volatile chemical molecules found in aromatic plants. These are called essential oils as they have oil soluble chemicals and are not able to dissolve in water. Not all plants can produce essential oils, and those that do can be from the fruit, flower, stem, roots or leaves. Commercially there are approximately 400 to 500 essential oils produced worldwide. And most are distilled( like in picture below we find Lavender being processed into an essential oil). Other methods are Expressing which is used most for citrus fruits and Enfleurage which is a cold-fat extraction process used for delicate flowers. Solvent extraction produces a concrete, and than results in an absolute. And finally the CO2 extraction which is quite a modern and sophisticated expensive  technique used to extract aromas even from plants which before where unthinkable of, but since it’s quite a new technique further studies have to be done regarding all benefits. It is considered very safe to use though organic CO2 is recommended as levels of pesticides are marked high in this method.     

 Some describe the essential oils like the blood of the plant. It sounds very poetic and in a way a plant cannot survive without these essential nutrients, but in reality essential oils are not a living substance. These do not carry hormones, vitamins, or any living substance. They work chemically and not because they are like our blood. So why are they so important?

Within the plants they have 2 main functions, Protection and communication, they are than able to do the same in a human body mainly via 2 main ways. Through olfactory(sense of smell) and via the skin. Our body reacts to the chemicals of the particular essential oils being Analgesic, relaxing, sedative, balancing or even more than one therapeutic effect like most essential oils have more than one effect on our systems.

Essential oils should not be taken lightly and it is important to ask your aromatherapist or seek a reliable source if not familiar with. If used incorrectly they can have adverse reactions. There are contra indications to some and can interact with medicinals or other alternative treatments so seek for advice, but Essential oils should be staple in every household for their  antiseptic properties, first aid properties, cleaning properties, relaxing properties and let us not forget the beautiful aroma they emit. Safe fragrances with an added therapeutic effect on all members of the family. Sounds nice hey! So I hope that after getting an idea of what and how these amazing substances are produced you will start venturing more into this amazing aromatic world.

Sources: roberttiserrand.com ; drrobertpappasweedandreep.com ; naha.org


Alexia Buttigieg is a holistic therapist who is passionate about everything that can help people feel better in a more natural approach, from massage to self-therapy to essential oils and reflexology. She believes that stress cannot be avoided but nature has given us all we need to reduce it, and live a more balanced existence. She started her career as a Beauty therapist and has achieved diplomas in Esteticienne and Physiatrics, where she was able to understand the anatomy and physiology of the human body. She furthered her studies by achieving diplomas in Reflexology (including palliative care) and Aromatherapy. Other certificate courses include tui na, facial analysis and ayurvedic stone massage.  In these past years she has ventured into natural cosmetics and read for a diploma and an advanced diploma in organic skincare formulation, which harmonises her passions for Aromatherapy and organic skincare treatments. Alexia still feels like her first role is being a mother to her daughter and prioritises family and their well-being. She may be contacted at naturannis@gmail.com

Categories
Food for Health

The Dairy Controversy

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Article by Dr. Antonella Grima

There is an ever-growing group of people who, for one reason or another, have excluded dairy products completely from their diet, opting to obtain their calcium from other sources. I feel I cannot say anything about those who opt out for ethical reasons, such as vegans who refuse to consume any animal products on the grounds of refusing to utilise animals and their products for human gain. It is a life choice and I respect it. However, I at times doubt how well informed the rest of the dairy non-consumers are about the pros and cons of consuming this food group and wonder whether they are somewhat misguided in their choices.

Archeological evidence has shown us that cattle has coexisted with humans since 10,000 BC. Cattle remains have been consistently found in ancestral human settlements worldwide, together with evidence that cattle was kept for milk, meat and hides. This close relationship between man and cattle that spans over twelve millennia gives one reason to believe that evolution has favoured humans who consumed dairy over tribes who did not. Similarly, it is very plausible to believe that over the millennia human genes and digestive systems have evolved to take full advantage of the properties of milk and its products.

Some argue that cow’s milk is made for baby cows, and not for humans. It is true that the digestibility and nutrient bio-availability of cow’s milk is inferior to that of human breast milk. However, this holds true only where infants, whose nutrition is derived entirely from milk, are concerned. In older children and adults breast milk consumption is highly unlikely and cow’s milk is the next best thing. Milk is in fact an excellent source of protein, as well as one of the best sources of calcium. There are other non-dairy sources of calcium, which is essential for healthy bones, among other things. However, ensuring an adequate daily intake of calcium from dairy (3 portions a day) is already difficult to achieve for most, let alone from other sources such as leafy greens and soy beans that are not usually consumed on a daily basis. The consumption of enough calcium is essential for all age groups and is especially important in children and teens where rapid bone growth is occurring, in pregnant and lactating mothers where demands are increased, and in the elderly where bone loss can lead to fractures that impact quality of life and survival.
In fact, in recent years, a disease called rickets, due to calcium or vitamin D deficiency, has resurfaced in middle class Londoner children. Once a disease of poverty and malnutrition, the cause of rickets is now unfortunately faddy diets and dairy elimination by parents who genuinely believe they are acting in their children’s best interest.

Promoters of vegan diets argue that animal proteins are pro-inflammatory, thus leading to chronic conditions like heart disease and cancers, among other things. While there is undebatable evidence that a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits and unrefined grains offers protection from a number of diseases, it is also true that dairy is consumed daily in moderate quantities among the world’s longest living populations, such as the Sardinians and Ikarians. Interestingly, Ikarians consume mostly yoghurt as a source of dairy, one of the lower fat varieties of this food group. In fact, in order to prevent heart disease, most nutritional authorities recommend the consumption of skimmed or low fat dairy rather than the fattier versions, such as hard cheeses and butter.

In the end I truly believe in applying the maxim “virtus est in media res” to nutrition. We are in reality omnivores of hunter gatherer origin. Consuming small amounts of food from the different food groups, while watching things like saturated fat and sugars, where there is undisputed evidence that consumption is harmful, is both pleasant and beneficial.

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Healthy Lifestyle

Coconut oil and its many uses in pregnancy and beyond

Coconut fruint and oil. spa, alternative medicine

Article by Dr. Antonella Grima

While I have my reserves about the ingestion of coconut oil (read more here), a jar of good quality, food grade coconut oil can be an excellent companion on this wonderful journey that is pregnancy, childbirth and beyond.

Very little is known about the effects of substances we ingest or apply to our skin on the growing embryo. It is therefore always advisable to refrain from using products containing harsh chemicals and fragrances and instead resort to alternatives with few or no extra ingredients, such as preservatives, colouring and fragrances.

Coconut oil is composed of medium chain fatty acids, that provide skin with an excellent soothing and moisturizing effect. In addition, its use on the skin has been attributed with antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, among others. Unlike other vegetable (such as olive oil) or petroleum-based (such as baby oil) oils, it is easily absorbed by the skin and does not leave an oily residue. Here are a few suggested uses for coconut oil, but I am sure there are many more.

During Pregnancy

Body Moisturizer: pregnancy may change the texture and suppleness of skin, making it dry and itchy in certain places, and oily in others. If you are suffering from dry and itchy skin, a small amount of coconut oil applied once or twice a day, can alleviate pruritus and restore moisture. It can also be used as a post-shaving balm and to relieve itchiness and skin tightness on your growing belly.

Hair serum: during pregnancy, hair loss is kept to a minimum and sebum production may decrease. This may result in an unmanageable mane of dry hair. Coconut oil applied to the tips may help with controlling unruly hair by giving it moisture, shine and weight.

Perineal massage: while there have not been many studies to prove the effectiveness of perineal massage for preventing tears and episiotomies during childbirth, for those who are willing to try this technique in the last weeks of pregnancy, coconut oil or almond oil are the recommended oils to use. More information about perineal massage can be read here.

Childbirth and post-pregnancy

Hospital bag: it would be a good idea to pack a small jar of coconut oil in your hospital bag as this might come in handy. The hospital air may be warmer and dryer than what we are usually used to. This may result in chapped lips and areas of dry skin which may benefit from some added moisture. The oil may also double up as a nipple cream, a hand cream and a nappy cream for your baby, saving you plenty of space in your luggage. I will go into more details about these uses in the next sections.

Nipple cream: new mothers, and seasoned mothers alike, may experience some nipple soreness or cracked nipples in the early days of breastfeeding. There are many specialized and baby-safe balms and compresses that help with restoring the delicate skin in this area and I recommend their use as they do work. However, this does not keep you from applying a dab of coconut oil in between feeds. It is natural and almost completely absorbed by the time the next feed is due. I would advise removing any residual oil or any cream used with a clean damp cloth or cotton wool before each feed in order to reduce the amount ingested by the infant.

Nappy cream: while this may not be a suitable option for babies with very sensitive skin or newborns who may need barrier creams, a dab of coconut oil after a nappy change is both soothing and rehydrating. You can also use a nappy change as an occasion to rub some oil onto your clean hsnds when you have finished changing the nappy. You will be washing your hands very often with a new baby in the house. Your hands may be longing for some added moisture!

Baby massage: babies may benefit from a massage with oil after their bath, both to replenish their skin’s moisture, as well as to help them relax and bond with their parents. Classic baby oils are mineral oils derived from petroleum distillation. These are easily replaced by more natural alternatives, such as vegetable oils. Olive oil and coconut oil are good oils to opt for as they impart other benefits to the skin apart from moisturising it.

Since coconut oil is a rich oil, it may be comedogenic if applied on acne-prone skin. I would therefore advise one to refrain from using it if there is a personal history of acne or blackheads. In addition, oils tend to irritate the eyes so, like other oily products, one should avoid using it on the face, and especially around the eyes.

Categories
Healthy Lifestyle

Be a Healthy Role Model for Children

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10 tips for setting good examples

Source: http://www.choosemyplate.gov

You are the most important influence on your child. You can do many things to help your children develop healthy eating habits for life. Offering a variety of foods helps children get the nutrients they need from every food group. They will also be more likely to try new foods and to like more foods. When children develop a taste for many types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals. Cook together, eat together, talk together, and make mealtime a family time!

1. Show by example
Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with meals or as snacks. Let your child see that you like to munch on raw vegetables.

2. Go food shopping together
Grocery shopping can teach your child about food and nutrition. Discuss where vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods come from. Let your children make healthy choices.

3. Get creative in the kitchen
Cut food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters. Name a food your child helps make. Serve “Janie’s Salad” or “Jackie’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner. Encourage your child to invent new snacks. Make your own trail mixes from dry whole-grain, low-sugar cereal and dried fruit.

4. Offer the same foods for everyone
Stop being a “short-order cook” by making different dishes to please children. It’s easier to plan family meals when everyone eats the same foods.

5. Reward with attention, not food
Show your love with hugs and kisses. Comfort with hugs and talks. Choose not to offer sweets as rewards. It lets your child think sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods. When meals are not eaten, kids do not need “extras” — such as candy or cookies — as replacement foods.

6. Focus on each other at the table
Talk about fun and happy things at mealtime. Turn off the television. Take phone calls later. Try to make eating meals a stress-free time.

7. Listen to your child
If your child says he or she is hungry, offer a small, healthy snack — even if it is not a scheduled time to eat. Offer choices. Ask “Which would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?” instead of “Do you want broccoli for dinner?”

8. Limit screen time
Allow no more than 2 hours a day of screen time like TV and computer games. Get up and move during commercials to get some physical activity.

9. Encourage physical activity
Make physical activity fun for the whole family. Involve your children in the planning. Walk, run, and play with your child — instead of sitting on the sidelines. Set an example by being physically active and using safety gear, like bike helmets.

10. Be a good food role model
Try new foods yourself. Describe its taste, texture, and smell. Offer one new food at a time. Serve something your child likes along with the new food. Offer new foods at the beginning of a meal, when your child is very hungry. Avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat.

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Healthy Lifestyle

The Dangerous Game of the Feeding Interval Obsession

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By: Emma Pickett IBCLC

Article as published on www.emmapickettbreastfeedingsupport.com
Some how, some where, new mothers got the message that the gap between when a baby stops a breastfeed and the time they start to need another one matters a very very great deal. 24 hours a day.

It seems to matter beyond all logic and reason. They see this magic number – 90 minutes, 2 hours, 3 hours – as a measure of something sacred.

And it’s crap.

There are mums sitting at home, relaxing and nesting with their gorgeous new baby. There’s a disk from a box set in the DVD player, a cup of tea on the go, a recent phone call with a friend. Breastfeeding is going well. Weight gain is fine. Baby is content. But when baby shows hunger cues after only 40 minutes instead of the hoped for 1hr 30 minutes, their heart sinks and they feel a sense something is fundamentally wrong. They aren’t ‘doing it right’. Their friend’s baby ‘goes longer’. Doubts creep in.

As adults, we grab a cup of tea, a glass of water, a sweet, a snack. We respond to our personal cues and we’re flexible depending on time of day, the temperature, our mood, our energy levels. Many go to bed with a glass of water or sip from a bottle throughout the day. I don’t know any adults that look at their watch and say, ‘Only 30 minutes till my next sip of water or mint! Not long now’. But yet we expect teeny growing babies to be governed by this artificial notion of time.

I spoke to a new mother last week who was perfectly HAPPY with her feeding routine but wondered if she should start to stretch her baby’s intervals because ‘that’s what you do’. When I explained that it wasn’t necessarily, she said she was more than happy to go on as she was.

Where do these ideas come from? They don’t come from anyone with any breastfeeding education, nor antenatal classes with breastfeeding professionals, nor books written by those trained to support breastfeeding.

They come from popular baby care books and relatives and peers.

They seem to come from a fundamental misunderstanding of the science of breastfeeding and breastmilk production. Often they come from mid-20th century ideas based around the norms of formula-feeding and pseudo-science. And that’s all incredibly dangerous.

There are still people out there, surrounded by breastfeeding, who believe that a baby who feeds after 4 hours rather than 3 hours will ‘take more milk’. There are people who believe that you need to wait and hold a baby off to let your breasts ‘refill’. There are people who believe that when a baby does want to return to the breast after only an hour that must reflect a ‘problem’ and perhaps the mother even has a supply issue.

It’s scary and extremely frustrating that basic messages about how milk production works don’t reach the people who need them.

So what is normal? Well, how long have you got? Because there’s a lot of normal. A newborn should feed a minimum of 8-12 times in 24 hours. That means some might be going every 3 hours and others will be feeding more frequently than 2 hourly. Some babies may feed every 10 minutes every hour. Some may feed for 10 minutes every 2 hours. Some may feed for 40 minutes every 2 hours. For periods in the day, a younger baby will often cluster feed and not be happy away from the breast for any longer than a few minutes at a time. This natural cluster feeding may dominate an evening.

A very common call to the National Helpline goes like this: “My baby used to sleep in the evenings and now he’s awake for 3-4 hours. The only thing that seems to settle him is the breast. I feel like I must not have enough milk as he’s on there for ages. Surely there can’t be anything there.” As the baby swaps from breast to breast, getting small quantities of very high fat content milk and decompressing at the end of a long day, they know exactly what they are doing.

And soon their patterns will change again. Some babies will start to longer intervals in the day as the months go by. But NOT all will.

One of the most popular babycare books (which I better not name) gives a strong direction that while frequent feeding might be occasionally acceptable during growth spurts, this holy cow of the interval between feeds matters greatly. A 3 month old baby might be going 3 hourly intervals but if this isn’t increasing at 4 months, then oh dear. This same writer believes a woman can measure her milk supply by doing a yield test and using a pump to extract milk which apparently will be the equivalent amount to what her baby extracts during a feed using an entirely different process. What this woman doesn’t know about breastfeeding could fill an encyclopaedia.

What I find particularly dangerous about her message that longer intervals are ‘better’ and ‘correct’, is that is means new mothers doubt their milk supply with absolutely no justification. And I know from having spent time on the message boards associated with this writer, many mothers will end up supplementing with formula to try and reach these magic numbers of minutes.

Why?

Babies are no longer being exclusively breastfed and parents are not following Department of Health recommendations because of incorrect information in a baby care book.

There are parents who choose to use formula for a whole host of complex reasons. Some do so happily and some do so miserably. But to do so, merely because you have read a lie in a book, seems tragic to me.

Our knowledge about breasts has been transformed over the last 20 years. Much of the pioneering work has been done in Australia by scientists like Professor Peter Hartmann and Dr. Donna Geddes, Steven Daly and their teams.

We used to think most women had a pretty similar number of milk ducts but the ultrasound research revealed there were less than previously thought and the range was big. One woman had 4 ducts at the nipple. One had 18.

But it’s the findings about breast storage capacity that we need to talk about here. When a baby feeds, some milk is manufactured during the feed itself and some is taken from milk that has been stored in the breasts between feeds.

Ultrasound revealed that a mother’s storage capacity cannot be guessed from breast size. Breast size is obviously not just about glandular tissue. The range in breast storage capacity was huge.

One mother was able to store about 2.6oz per breast. Another woman stored more than 20oz. That’s not a typo.

Women with a smaller breast storage capacity had a healthy milk production over a 24 hr period and their babies had good weight gain. But their babies might need to feed more frequently to access this healthy milk production.
Is this a mother with a supply problem?

No, it is not.

Her baby may continue to feed 2 hourly or even less for a few months during the day, cluster feed at certain points and perhaps continue to wake a couple of times hungry at night. Her friend’s baby may settle into a pattern of feeding less frequently over a 24 hour period. This friend’s baby may not be receiving more milk overall.

When breasts are fuller, milk production slows. When breasts are emptier, we make more milk. When babies feed more frequently and from emptier breasts, they receive milk with a higher fat content. Frequent feeding has value. And as human milk has a fat content of around 3-5% compared to some mammals who have a fat content of 40% +, it seems pretty clear we’re designed as a species to need feeding more frequently.

But let’s imagine the mother with the smaller breast storage capacity has read this baby care book. She might become distressed that her baby still wants to feed 2 hourly. She might even try and stretch the interval between feeds in the mistaken belief this will increase her baby’s intake. And in doing so, her breasts spend longer at full storage capacity and their milk production slows and her breasts receive the signal to decrease milk supply.

So in her attempt to stretch between feeds as the advice she is reading suggests she does, she may actually be decreasing her overall milk production in 24 hours and be doing some actual harm.

So what should we suggest to this mum who never seems to be able to stretch her baby to longer intervals in the ways that her friends seem able?

First off, we should congratulate her for responding to her baby’s cues. Thankfully she knew not to try and impose some routine early on and therefore her milk supply is at its maximum capacity. Let’s check breastfeeding is otherwise going well: that feeds are comfortable for her, baby does settle for periods of contentment after a feed (though it may only be an hour or even less, rather than 3) and latching and positioning is at maximum efficiency. If all this is true, and never reaching a magic ‘interval’ is her only concern, then we need to make sure she knows as much as possible about how milk production works. It is possible she is one of the mothers who has a minimal breast storage capacity and she will need to feed more in 24 hours to maximise the volume of milk her baby receives. And there might be nothing she can do about that. What happens next is about acceptance and support and attitude.

She has to keep that up for ideally around 6 months if her baby is going to get the full benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. She might need greater support with feeding outside the home – perhaps learning how to feed in a sling or experiment with different positions for different environments. It’s possible she may be woken at night more than her friend with the longer intervals – though we would expect night time intervals to be longer and for her to get a block of longer rest. She may benefit from support on safe bed-sharing practices.

And it is just a matter of months. After solids have been established, patterns will change. It’s surprising what we can cope with for just a few months. We have jars of pickle in our fridge significantly older than that. We may even have toothbrushes that are around that long. In terms of an adult lifetime, it’s a blink of an eye.

What won’t help these mothers is the relentless message that they just need to stretch their baby a little more. That if they leave him to cry for 15 minutes, magically he will take more milk and life will change. That just isn’t what science tells us is true for all women.

And I’m talking about myself here, by the way. My children under 6 months never went longer than 2 hours between feeds in the day and not much longer at night. My red record books records me feeding at 3 months every 90 minutes or so. So I learnt to feed while babywearing. I went to friendly groups and friendly places and met up with people at home. I read about safe co-sleeping practices which I know beyond a shadow of a doubt saved my bacon. And thankfully, I never felt anything was ‘wrong’. I just trusted my body. I trusted my baby and we worked as a beautiful team. I sat at home on the sofa and fed relatively frequently, enjoyed my box sets and my healthy and not-so-healthy snacks and that was OK. It really wasn’t for long. But the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding will be.

Why should a watch or clock tell me how to be a mother? I’d rather pay attention to my baby.

Sources:

Anatomy of the lactating human breast redefined with ultrasound imaging.

DT Ramsay, JC Kent, RA Hartmann, and PE Hartman. 2005.

The magic number and long-term milk production. Nancy Mohrbacher IBCLC

Studies on Human Lactation: Development of the computerized breast measurement system. D.B Cox, R.A Owens, Peter E. Hartmann

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Healthy Lifestyle

#normalizebreastfeeding

Many people believe that breastfeeding must be normalized; to support families that choose breastfeeding, to declare their rights according to their state, and to show others who may still consider it a taboo that breastfeeding, as challenging as it may be, is beneficial for the health of the mother and is the optimal way to establish a good foundation of nutrition for the child. this powerful video says it all.

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Recipes & Tips Weight Loss

Quick tip: Strategies for Weight Loss

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By Dr. Antonella Grima

The key to losing weight is reducing the portion sizes of all meals and snacks. Another trick is to replace energy-dense, or high calorie, foods, such as biscuits, chocolates, and crisps with foods that have a lower energy density, such as fruit and vegetables. Eating plenty of fibre also helps you reach satiation before and curbs hunger for longer, helping you eat less. Excellent sources of fibre include fruit such as kiwi, vegetables like legumes, nuts and wholegrain products. Cutting back on creams, oils and dressing reduces the amount of calories you consume. Keep in mind that one tablespoon of oil or mayonnaise contains around 100 Calories! Soft drinks, fruit juices and alcohol are full of extra calories. Limit their consumption or stick to low calorie alternatives where available. Of course, no weight loss regime is complete without involvement in some degree of physical activity. This may also involve simple strategies, such as taking the stairs, using public transport, or parking your car farther away.

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Food for Health Recipes & Tips

Quick tip: About Clean Eating

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By Dr. Antonella Grima

Clean eating revolves around the concept of eating food in its most natural, fresh and wholesome form. Fresh unprocessed food is highest in vitamins, minerals and natural materials, such as fibre. Processing and refining of food depletes it from these naturally-occurring beneficial substances, replacing them with harmful additives, such as, sugars, salt and stabilizing chemicals. Eating clean foods helps prevent obesity, diabetes and hypertension, as well as vitamin deficiencies. It might also help prevent cancer. In fact, the link between the consumption of large amounts of processed meats and the occurrence of bowel cancer has been well-documented. Clean foods might be more difficult to find than readily-available processed alternatives. However, growing your own vegetables, cooking your own food from scratch, and getting to know your local farmers and buying produce from them may be an enriching experience to be enjoyed by the whole family.

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Healthy Lifestyle

Q&A: Healthy Lunchboxes for Children

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Dr. Antonella Grima interviewed by Daniela Allen for A&H magazine

What should we include and what should we avoid giving children in their lunch boxes?
When preparing school lunches, one should try and include as many fresh ingredients as possible and keep away from pre-packed or ready-made lunches and snacks as these tend to have a higher salt, fat and sugar content. Reducing the salt content of lunches is also beneficial and one may look for low salt bread, spreads, ham or cheese.
Make sure to include plenty of water to cover your child’s fluid requirements, especially on active or sports days. Needless to say, sweets and junk food should be kept away from the lunch box, especially since most schools have strict policies regarding these foods.

How should we cope with fussy eaters and should we worry if they don’t eat everything?
Try and involve your children in the preparation of their lunches and include food choices that you know they like. Do not be afraid to experiment with ways of preparing and presenting the lunch. This may be by adding new ingredients, such as herbs, to enhance flavour, or by including new food, such as, pasta or rice instead of the classic sandwich. It is more likely that a lunch is eaten if it looks and smells appealing.
Unless your child’s doctor is concerned about his or her growth, do not feel stressed if your child returns home with most of the lunch. Children tend to auto-regulate much better than us adults, and eat more on days or at times when they really need it and less when they perceive less hunger.

Any practical tips to ensure healthy and nutritious lunches?
It would be a good idea to use compartmentalised lunch boxes and use the different sections to include a variety of food groups, such as bread or pasta, vegetables and fruit, a protein source, like beans or chicken strips, and dairy, such as a soft cheese, rather than offering only the carbohydrate-rich options, like for example sandwiches.
By offering a variety of food choices on different days of the week, you introduce an element of surprise and make lunchtime less boring. In addition, you would be making sure that your child is receiving a healthy variety of nutrients.

Categories
Weight Loss

Staying Healthy While Eating Out

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By Dr. Antonella Grima

Article as appeared on eve.com.mt on 19th September 2014

Enjoying a meal away from home can be a healthy experience if one avoids a few culinary pitfalls and selects items off the menu wisely.

Beware of Portion Distortion

One of the major reasons why eating out often leaves a mark on our waistline is the generous portions we are presented with. Plates used in restaurants are often larger than the ones we use at home and the amount of food placed on them may even be double that found in a home-cooked meal. If available, opt for a starter or smaller portion and do not feel obliged to wipe the plate clean. You can put aside part of your dish and plan to eat only that. Other strategies to deal with large portions include sharing your meal with a friend or asking for a doggie bag.

Limit the Courses

Whenever possible, choose one main meal and avoid nibbles, starters, bread and dips before your meal, as these are often calorie-dense and contribute significantly to the total amount of calories consumed.

Choose the Cooking Method

Steer clear of fried or breaded food and opt for steamed, boiled or baked options. Reduce the fat content when eating meat products by choosing leaner cuts, such as fillet, sirloin, or breast when choosing poultry, and avoiding meats that still have the skin on. Leaner types of meat include fish, poultry and rabbit, while products containing higher amounts of saturated fats, and hence calories, are red meat and full-fat dairy products. Offal, eggs and shellfish, on the other hand are high in cholesterol.

Opt for Whole Grain

If whole grain options are available, choose them. Fibre is not only beneficial to your digestive and circulatory systems, it also helps you feel full earlier and curbs your appetite longer than refined grain options. Whole grains may be in the form of bread, wraps, pasta or rice, among others.

Ditch the Hidden Calories

Sauces, dressings, creams and oils are laden with calories and can easily add on 500 or more calories to your meal. Keep in mind that one tablespoon of oil or mayonnaise contains around 100 calories. Stay away from food containing cream and opt for vegetable-based sauces. When ordering a salad as part of your meal, ask for the dressing or oil to be left out from the preparation and to be brought to you in a separate container. That way you can add a small amount to your meal.

Go for Veggies

When vegetables are on the menu, do not shy away from them. Vegetables may be included as salads, soups, vegetable-based sauces for pasta dishes or vegetarian pizza toppings. Vegetables are lower in calories than meat or grains and help you feel fuller for longer. Pulses and beans are an excellent protein source and a low calorie, high fibre substitute for meat.

Drinks are Important Too

It is useless to watch what you eat when you are guzzling down litres of sugary drinks, alcohol or fruit juices. Try and stick to water and remember that, while a glass of red wine is good for you, alcohol consumption should be limited as it is packed with extra calories.

The Dessert Dilemma

After your meal, the lure of dessert is easy to succumb to. Ask yourself if you are really still hungry and consider postponing that sweet something to later on during the day as a snack. If skipping dessert is not an option, go for healthier choices, such as fruit, smaller bite-sized portions or sharing dessert with someone else.

Arrive Early and Enjoy!

Do not postpone eating to when you are starving. When we are hungry, we tend to gravitate towards sugary, calorie-packed foods and consume more nibbles than we would normally do. Arrive at the restaurant or pick up your food 30 minutes before your regular meal time so as to avoid irrational food decisions. Finally, and most importantly, enjoy your food, your company and your surroundings. Eat slowly and savour each and every morsel. This will help you reach satiation earlier and render your dining experience a memorable and healthy one.

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Food for Health

My Water Challenge

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By Dr. Antonella Grima

As appeared on eve.com.mt on 27th September 2014

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an article regarding a woman who claimed tohave taken ten years off her face by drinking three litres of water a day.

At first I was rather skeptical about her affirmation, assuming it was yet another one of the many internet phenomena. Then I looked at the logic, and yes, it made perfect sense.

So off to the kitchen I went, measuring jug in hand – three litres of water a day, ten large glasses of water over a period of 24 hours – doable? Doable! I calculated how I would split my water over the day, timing my peak water input around my schedule in order to avoid obvious inconveniences, and my water challenge was launched.

Having been accustomed to withstanding long stretches of time with very little or no water at all, my kidneys initially could not keep up and I spent the first few days within very close proximity of a bathroom. However, being guilty of long-term and self-inflicted water deprivation, despite knowing better, I decided to persevere and see if the lady’s claims held any truth.

After a few days, I got accustomed to the change in my water consumption and the sweltering summer heat on my side, also surprised myself by actually feeling thirsty and exceeding my three litre a day quota on some days! Did I notice any difference? Yes! Three weeks into the experiment, the most noticeable change is my skin. It does seem more even and somewhat plumper than it did a while ago and I do look more refreshed than before.

My digestion also seems to have improved and I noticed I crave food less unless I am hungry. I also managed to lose a kilo despite eating more or less the same amount as I did before. I have become more attuned to thirst and respond to it more quickly now. I do feel more energetic and have less headaches than I normally would have. Shall I continue? Hopefully yes. It has been shown that a considerable proportion of adults consume less water than their body requires, so I do encourage readers to up their water consumption.

If for any reason, including heart or kidney disease, or electrolyte imbalances, you have been advised by your doctor to restrict your fluid intake, please refrain from drinking more water than you have been advised by your doctor as this could cause you serious harm.

Article as appeared on DailyMail

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Food for Health

A Grainy Matter

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By Dr. Antonella Grima

Article as appeared on eve.com.mt on 20th November 2014

I am often asked about wheat and grains and my opinion about which ones are best and what health benefits are provided by the different forms of grains. The food and health industry is constantly bombarding us with claims promoting the almost-miraculous qualities of this or that grain, so the confusion is inevitable.

Grains, also known as cereals or cereal grains, are a staple of most diets and are a main source of carbohydrates, and, to a lesser extent proteins. Grains have three components: The outer layer called bran which contains fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Refining removes this layer, while whole grains have this layer intact. The endosperm is rich in carbohydrates in the form of starch, as well as proteins. Gluten is the main protein component of certain grains, such as wheat, barley and rye, while other grains contain different proteins, and are therefore gluten-free.

The germ contains unsaturated (healthy) oils, vitamins E and B, minerals and phytonutrients.

I will now go over the most popular classes of grains and briefly discuss their properties.

Wheat: is by far the most commonly consumed type of grain. The most widely used are bread wheat, that is used to make bread, cakes and pastries, and durum wheat, which also includes semolina. Durum wheat is used to make pasta, breakfast cereals, bulgur and couscous. Other, less widely used types of wheat are spelt, emmer, einkorn and kamut. These wheats have more ancient origins than modern wheat and are promoted for their higher protein, fibre and vitamin content. Whenever possible, consumption of wholegrain wheat products or products containing wheat bran is indicated.

Rice: needs no introduction at all. Of note are Basmati rice, which has a lower Glycaemic Index (GI) than normal rice, and brown or wild rice, which have their bran layer intact, thus being whole grains and therefore more nutritious than the refined varieties.

Corn: is either consumed whole, on the cob or as separate kernels, or refined to various degrees to produce a number of products. These include corn starch or syrup used to sweeten foods, corn flour that is used as a thickener, corn meal for making polenta or tortillas, and grits used for cornflakes or chips. Let us not forget that popcorn is a whole grain, making it a tasty high-fibre treat.

Oats: the soluble fibres in oats have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and are therefore promoted as healthy heart grains, mainly in the form of breakfast cereals. In addition, oats contain a number of antioxidants that also play a role in promoting health. Oats are classified as whole grains.

Barley: is rich in beta-glucan, giving it the same heart-friendly properties as oats. Apart from its use in beer, barley is used to make soups, porridge and breakfast cereals.

Millet: is a very hardy grain that survives in unfavourable climates. Being gluten-free, millet bread may be used as a substitute for wheat bread. Millet is also used to make porridge, boiled like rice or added to foods to improve texture.

Buckwheat and quinoa. These are not true grains but are often included with the grain class as they have very similar properties. Buckwheat is high in fibre and contains beneficial antioxidants and minerals. It is used as a substitute for wheat in many gluten-free recipes and is also used to produce noodles, as well as being a part of many traditional European and Asian recipes.

Quinoa has gained in popularity lately. It is higher in protein, when compared to conventional grains and contains less carbohydrates, that also has a lower GI than those founds in traditional grains. In addition, quinoa is high in fibre, vitamins B and E and contains phytochemicals. Quinoa is either cooked whole or made into flour or flakes and incorporated into a variety of recipes.

More details about these and other grains may be found here glnc.org.au/grains

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Food for Health Weight Loss

Snacking It Right

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By Dr. Antonella Grima

Article as appeared on eve.com.mt on 19th January 2015

I often encounter people who are ever so diligent when having their main meals and who unfortunately commit a number of snacking blunders, thus consuming the wrong types of food and exceeding their daily caloric needs through snacking.

The result is inevitable – weight gain. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that will help you snack wisely.

The Do’s:

Keep healthy snacks handy when you are out. This will keep you from purchasing calorie-dense alternatives, such as fast food takeaways, chocolate bars or sweets. Low calorie alternatives that can be easily carried around in your bag include fruit, a low fat yoghurt, a small packet of wholegrain crackers or a handful of nuts in a small container.

Find time to snack and try to have two or three snacks during the day, between your main meals. This will help you keep your glucose and insulin levels stable and avoid craving and overeating at meal times.

Drink plenty of water. Thirst may be misinterpreted as hunger by our bodies. Keeping yourself well-hydrated helps you curb your appetite and keep your food consumption within healthy limits.

And the Don’ts:

Avoid snacking when you are distracted in front of the TV or computer or when you are busy doing something. Mindless eating, which happens when we are concentrating on something else, makes us over eat and to go for the wrong food choices.

When you snack, do not graze. Choose one food item and stick to it. Eating one food item after another and in large quantities, may result in the consumption of a considerable amount of calories over a short period of time. This often happens when we have not eaten for some time and if we are starving or craving food.

Do not fall into the trap of snacking on protein shakes, protein or cereal bars. These might contain a high concentration of sugars and are seldom filling, making you want to eat more, afterwards.

In conclusion, snacks should provide an opportunity for increasing the consumption of healthy nutrients, such as vitamins and fibre, through wholesome and healthy options, while also keeping hunger under control until mealtimes. When chosen wisely, a snack can provide us with a refreshing and energy-boosting break to our daily routines.

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Weight Loss

The Festive Season: Indulge Responsibly

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By Dr. Antonella Grima

Article as appeared on Ilsien in-Nisa Magazine, December 2014 issue

The time to be merry is once again here and, as we all know, too much merriment often leaves its signs on our waistline. Public Health doctor and Nutritionist Dr. Antonella Grima gives us a few tips on how to enjoy the festive season without facing the consequences, or rather piling the pounds.

Contain yourself: It is ok to taste foods that would be on the forbidden list at other times of the year, but the trick is just that – tasting. Enjoy bite sized portions of the yummy stuff and savour every morsel, rather than piling your plate high with food, thus saving yourselves plenty of calories.

Compensate: When you know that you will be eating more than you ought to, stay light during the rest of the day. Eat low calorie alternatives, such as vegetable soups or salads and snack on low calorie options, such as a skimmed yoghurt or a fruit. Drink plenty of water to help your digestion and give your system a good flush.

Skim on the hidden calories: Stay away from cream-based sauces, mayonnaise, oils and butter. These all have a high caloric content and make a big contribution to the amount of calories you consume while celebrating.

Drinks count too: Watch the booze and try to stick to one drink a day if you are a woman, and two if you are a man. This will not only help prevent any alcohol-related damage, but also keep you in trim shape since alcohol is packed with calories. Needless to say, when going for non-alcoholic beverages, water is always the best option. Sweetened drinks and fruit juices all contribute towards the number of calories you consume.

Get moving: A brisk walk or jog in the cold air restarts your digestive system after last night’s banquet, while helping you burn away some of the culinary sins you may have committed. Do not fall into the trap of overeating with the promise of exercising it off however since, as the saying goes, a moment on your lips, a lifetime on your hips.